Can a Happy Marriage Keep You Healthy?

A partner can spur you to adopt better habits

Think about all the nice things your spouse or partner does for you. Ever consider that helping you to be healthy is one of them?

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We don’t just mean bringing you chicken soup when you’re sick, preparing your favorite healthy snacks or reminding you to take your daily medicine. Research shows a partner can help when it comes to developing healthier habits – and living longer.

  • A recent study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found women and men are more likely to adopt and stick with healthy behaviors if their partner does, too. When one partner changed to a healthier behavior, such as quitting smoking, the other partner was more likely to make a positive health behavior change, too.
  • A Brigham Young University study found married people had greater satisfaction with life and healthier blood pressure levels than single individuals. But the quality of the marriage was just as important. High marital quality was associated with lower blood pressure, lower stress, less depression and higher satisfaction with life.
  • Research out of Duke University Medical Center shows married people who have reached middle age generally live longer. Being single or losing a partner without replacement increased the risk of death during middle age and decreased the probability that one will survive to be elderly.

Taken together, these findings suggest that the marriages – particularly fulfilling ones – can provide you with health in addition to happiness.

One reason is that healthy behaviors are infectious, says wellness expert Michael Roizen, MD.

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“We often mirror the behaviors of those closest to us,” he says.

A partner also can be someone with whom we can share our new healthy habits.

“In simplest terms, you’re much more likely to walk if you have a buddy,” Dr. Roizen says, “A spouse, many times, is a great buddy.”

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The same theory applies to breaking a bad habit, too. If you want to quit smoking or eating unhealthy food, do it with your spouse. It helps to have a trusted person to tell  your experiences to, especially someone going through a similar challenge, Dr. Roizen says.

“The two of you are supporting one another and you’re rewiring your brains together,” Dr. Roizen says.

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